Police in northeast China said seven people were arrested following a clash between residents and authorities that imposed COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.
The violence comes as China reports new cases nationwide, with 2,230 cases reported Tuesday in Guangzhou’s southern manufacturing and technology hub.
Although the numbers remain relatively low, China has relentlessly pursued its strict “zero-COVID” policy of quarantines, lockdowns, and mandatory daily or near-daily tests.
A press release from the Linyi City Police Department in Shandong said that public security will take strong measures against those who “have illegally violated the legal rights of personal protection of citizens.”
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The anti-pandemic measures have caused backlashes across the country, forming a rarely seen challenge to the authority of the Communist Party. It was not immediately clear who was arrested after the fight. News of the arrests appeared on social media on Tuesday morning, but was cleared by the country’s censorship before noon.
Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made “zero-COVID” a hallmark of his administration, which gained a boost last month after he was granted a third five-year term in power and promoted loyalists to positions of summit.
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These include the former Shanghai party leader, where a draconian blockade over the summer led to food shortages, clashes with authorities, and major disruptions to global supply chains that have become dependent on Chinese manufacturing and shipping.
While the rest of the world has mostly opened up, China has taken only very cautious small steps, with its borders still largely closed and officials pressured hard to enforce restrictions.
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China reported that its trade shrank in October due to weakening global demand and virus checks that weighed on domestic consumer spending. Exports fell 0.3% from the previous year, down from the 5.7% growth in September, the customs agency reported Monday. Imports fell by 0.7%, compared to the 0.3% expansion the previous month.
Speculation about a possible easing of “zero-COVID” markets was agitating, but the government kept its plans, including the possibility of importing foreign vaccines, a closely kept secret.
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Last week, access to the industrial zone where a factory producing Apple iPhones is located was suspended for a week following the wave of infections in Zhengzhou and the exit of workers from the factory. Many have climbed over fences and walked along highways to avoid being locked up in quarantine centers where food, health and privacy standards have been heavily criticized.
Apple announced Sunday that customers will have to wait longer to get its latest iPhone models, saying the Foxconn plant in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou “operates at significantly reduced capacity.”